June 13, 2010 12:40:00 AM
A rusty hinge lay on the slanted concrete floor of the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. Director Karen Johnwick sighs, leans down and picks up the scrap, and shakes her head. "You can only put a Band-Aid on something for so long," she says despondently. "We don''t want to spend money here; we want to invest in the new place."
The current facility at 13 Airline Road was built in the early ''70s on an old landfill. "So it''s literally sinking into the ground," said Johnwick. "The floor is cracking; the walls are sinking; hardly any of the doors close properly, and all of the ceiling tiles have fallen out. You can only see the rafters. The airflow is no longer up to standards, and the cats are at risk of upper respiratory infection. We have heat and air, and most of it escapes out the ceiling."
The main office is actually an old, dilapidated trailer. The dog dishes and the animals are washed in the same closet-sized space where the light often doesn''t work. The floor has poor drainage and both inclines and declines all over. The doors will not close. Spilled water bowls or urine often fill designated walkways because of the lack of proper drainage. Designated spill areas get stopped up and overflow.
"With rusty cages and cracked floors; you can easily have diseases set in," said Johnwick. "We clean thoroughly every morning, but you just can''t completely sterilize cracks. We clean to the best of our ability, but it''s just not the ideal kennel situation. It would be easier, and healthier for the animals, if we had an up-to-standard facility."
The Humane Society has been fundraising for the new shelter, which will be located on donated land across the road from its current location, for about two years. "We just happened to start when the economy went down. The $500,000 (we have raised) is mostly from the first year of fundraising. We haven''t been able to raise much this past year."
"At this rate, it would take several more years before we can break ground on a new shelter. Honestly, I don''t know whether our current location will be able to hold up that long."
It will cost around one million dollars for a new humane society at the new location. "We''re halfway there," said Johnwick. "We''ve been having little fundraisers every other weekend for the last two months, but they don''t really make a dent in the amount we need to raise. On June 26 at the Columbus Country Club, we''ll be having the third Annual Charity Golf Tournament. We''re hoping to raise $10,000 (there)."
The tournament, "Playing for Paws," will be a four-person scramble that starts at 8 a.m.
A willing heart
Another blow to the Humane Society''s fundraising campaign was the recent loss of their volunteer capital campaign manager. "We''re trying to get our capital campaign running again," said Johnwick. "We''re looking for a volunteer to be able to get us back on track with our campaign efforts. The chair would need to know and be known by families and businesses in Columbus and Lowndes County and be able to ask them for their support and sponsorship for our new facility."
Families and businesses can sponsor an area of the shelter, such as the surgery room or the kennels, or just make a donation to the building fund, perhaps in honor or memory of someone.
Root of the problem
Johnwick says that a lot of the problem in our area is that not enough of the community is spaying and neutering their pets.
"People need to realize animals don''t know what over-pet population is. We, as responsible pet owners, need to see the problem and have our pets fixed. We had 350 animals surrendered here last month. And in less than four days this month, we''ve had 77 animals surrendered already.
"In May we only adopted out 84 animals, and we had to euthanize 204. This is a problem we as a community need to tackle. The adoption numbers are too low, and the euthanasia numbers are too high. ... The only solution is spaying and neutering."
Every bit helps
Johnwick feels a more inviting facility would attract more individuals willing to adopt and support the shelter. "We don''t need a multi-million dollar facility. We just need adequate plumbing, good concrete with a special coating that makes it non-porous and proper ventilation so the animals don''t get sick in the stagnate air. A large majority of the budget is going to be spent on these three areas because this will be the foundation of a healthy Humane Society."
She appealed to the community at large: "If anyone is interested in helping us make the dream a reality by giving the homeless animals of Columbus and Lowndes County a new healthy, safe facility, you could make a donation."
Every dollar can make a difference in the lives of the dogs and cats surrendered at the deteriorating shelter. To find out more about how you can help, contact Johnwick, or Shelter Manager Jason Nickles, at 662-327-3107. Learn much more about the local Humane Society, visit www.clhumanesociety.org.
"If those who care could find $10 to $50 in their monthly budgets for the shelter," Johnwick said, "we could reach our goal much sooner. We''d like the shelter to be something the community could be proud of."